General Pavel: Balkans still potential source of conflict

The Balkans is still a potential source of conflict, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, said on Saturday, adding that NATO needs to have the capabilities "to deter and defend against any threat".

"The alliance needs to have the right capabilities, forces and resources to deter and defend against any threat and counter all contingencies," General Pavel said at a press conference after a day-long conference of the NATO Military Committee in the southern Croatian coastal city of Split.

Presenting the conclusions of the conference, he said that the meeting was a chance to bring together the chiefs of defence of allied countries, the two strategic commanders and the invited country, Montenegro, "to deliberate on the implementation of the decisions made by heads of state and government in the NATO summit in Warsaw this July."

General Pavel said that NATO had achieved a lot in adapting to new circumstances, but noted that continued adaptation was necessary. He stressed that NATO should have a greater role in combating terrorism.

He warned of dangers in the Balkans, saying that the situation in that part of Europe was still far from stable.

"The situation in the Balkans in general ... is far from being absolutely stable. We are all aware ... that the Western Balkans is still a potential source of tensions and that we have to pay great attention to the situation there," Pavel said, adding that the Balkans "might be the next frontier" not only for Islamic terrorism but for Russian influence as well.

He noted that protection against "Islamic extremism" was a concern for the whole of Europe.

If Bosnia becomes a safe haven for extremists, that will also be a problem for Europe, and North America will also be concerned. It is in our interest that Bosnia remains safe and that it does not become such a safe haven, and if necessary, NATO will take action in that regard, Pavel said.

Asked about possible movements of refugees this autumn, Pavel said he did not expect large waves of refugees like last year.

"There is no imminent threat of a huge wave of migrants coming from the Middle East or North Africa. ... I do not expect any major wave coming through the Balkan route, and if it happens, (it will be) the responsibility of the European Union rather than NATO" because such problems cannot be dealt with by tanks, Pavel said.

In conclusion, General Pavel thanked Croatian General Sundov for hosting the event and Croatia for its contribution to common security. He also thanked all Croatian servicemen and women for their commitment to the alliance and for their participation in NATO-led peacekeeping operations and missions worldwide.